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Lamees Al Hadidi
Al Jazeera's Lamees Al Hadidi presented the results of a poll about Jordanians' attitudes to the US as part of a BBC-led global television debate about America's place in the world.

Here she examines Jordan's position in the Arab world and its relationship with the US.

Trapped between the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Iraqi-Gulf conflict, Jordanian relations with the US have been subject to extreme changes.

Throughout much of its history, Jordan has been a pro-Western, modernising country that has adopted moderate policies on most regional issues.

Its small size and lack of major economic resources have made it dependent on aid from Western and neighbouring Arab countries, which presents a dilemma: whether to adopt American policies or look out for Arab interests.

Jordan's geographic position - wedged between Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia has made it vulnerable to the strategic designs of its more powerful neighbours - but has also given Jordan an important role as a buffer between these potential adversaries.

This, and other reasons, led the US to depend on Jordan and on its late King Hussain, then his son King Abdulla, to help sustain its policies in the Middle East.

Rift over Iraq

The 1990s, however, saw a brief rift in American-Jordanian relations.

Jordan had close economic ties with Iraq, which allowed it to import cheap oil.

Initially, King Hussain expressed an unwillingness to join the allied coalition against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait, which disrupted relations between the US and the Gulf States.

However, that did not last long.

The same King Hussain changed course by getting more involved in the Arab-Israeli peace process in late 1991 by tightening the enforcement of UN economic sanctions against Iraq, allowing an Iraqi opposition group to establish an office in Jordan and permitting US fighter aircrafts in Jordan to help enforce the no-fly zone in southern Iraq.

Jordan, nevertheless, managed to maintain long-standing economic ties with Baghdad and the popular sympathy many Jordanians have with the Iraqi people; at least 400,000 Iraqis live in Jordan.

Jordan's role in the peace process was another milestone in its relations with the US.

In October 1994, Jordan and Israel signed a fully-fledged peace treaty at a ceremony on the Jordanian-Israeli border attended by former US President Bill Clinton.

US aid

The history of American aid to Jordan goes back to 1951. Total aid given until 1997 is estimated at $3.9bn including $2.1bn in economic assistance and $1.8bn in military aid.

Levels of American aid have fluctuated, increasing in response to threats faced by Jordan and decreasing during periods of political tension.

In 1991, due to Jordan's sympathy for Iraq during the Gulf crisis, the US Congress suspended aid to Jordan. But the president exercised a waiver later that year to maintain informal funds.

After signing a peace treaty with Israel, stipulation on aid to Jordan was removed.

As part of a 5-year Middle East peace and stability fund announced by the Clinton administration in 1997, both Egypt and Israel agreed to the diversion of $50m from each of their respective aid programmes in 1997 and 1998 to augment economic aid funds available to Jordan.

That brought US economic aid to Jordan to $112m in 1997 and $150m in 1998, and total aid for Jordan for those years to $152m and $228m respectively (including military aid).

Since then US aid stabilised at $150m in economic assistance, $75m in foreign military financing and $1.6m in international military education and training.

In 2003, however, the Bush administration sought to double the US aid to Jordan in view of its support for the "War on Terror".

In October 2000, Jordan and the US signed a free trade agreement, the third for the US and its first with an Arab state, which eliminates duties and commercial barriers to bilateral trade in goods and services originating in the two countries.

Jordanian 'anger'

Great political and economic ties between Jordan and the US, however, do not reflect the mood in the Jordanian street.

Because of American support for Israel - perhaps half the Jordanian population originates from Palestine - and the anger at what happened in Iraq, the Jordanians find themselves filled with deep anger at American policies.

That anger was reflected in several violent acts against US diplomats and local police.

Though the Jordanian Government has described them as "isolated incidents", these were signs of resentment of US policies in the region, and this anger cannot be mended by free trade agreements or direct economic assistance.

Whether that will change with more American involvement in implementing the road map, and exhorting more pressure on Israel, remains to be seen.

What The World Thinks of America was broadcast in the UK on BBC Two on Tuesday, 17 June, 2003 at 2100 BST.

You can watch the programme by clicking the link on the What the World Thinks of America home page.



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